DOCUMENTA KASSEL 16/06-23/09 2007

d8 1987

The eighth documenta in 1987 was also the second to be organized by Manfred Schneckenburger as artistic director. It concentrated on examining art's social relevance in the field of conflict between independence and intervention, and sought to explore the points of contact between design, art and architecture. However, Schneckenburger was not solely concerned with the classic division between the freedom and the application of art. Rather, he aimed at showing art's potential to achieve change both in the areas of applied arts and in the field of social utopias, which in light of current events (one year after Chernobyl) were in a state of crisis.

Through works by various artists on war, suppression and violence, which were displayed in the rooms of the Fridericianum, Schneckenburger illustrated society's present loss of utopia. This was admirably demonstrated by Marie-Jo Lafontaine's monumental video installation “Les Larmes d'Acier” (The Tears of Steel), featuring a young, athletic man working out to the strains of a Maria Callas aria. This ingenious combination of various pathos formulas, the monumental exaggeration of the body cult and the uncanny connection between man and machine in the service of aesthetics produced a disconcerting fascination that visitors sensed both with discomfort but also enthusiasm. But also Joseph Beuys' final large installation “Blitzschlag mit Lichtschein auf Hirsch“, (the artist had died a year earlier), which appeared somewhat aloof compared to the artist's earlier emphatic awareness of change, could be interpreted in this manner. By extending the exhibition to the entire city of Kassel, a move Schneckenburger referred to as “critical interventions in the cityscape”, he intended to exemplify art's possible comments on the affairs of public life. Ian Hamilton Finlay set up a row of guillotines, which he decorated with quotations from the bloody history of the French Revolution, in a visual axis of the Baroque park grounds of the Karlsaue, thereby combining aesthetics and social upheavals along the chronological axis of the 18th century.

In sharp contrast, the artistic director's broad interpretation of art was illustrated in the Orangerie , where architecture and design were displayed in a context that cancelled the clear division between art's independence and its application. Artists' contributions and proposals varied between fatalistic designs like Austrian architects Haus-Rucker-Co's model for a museum as a final nuclear disposal site for art, and presentations in the mode of French artist Ange Leccia, who stood the latest Mercedes model on a platform without any further adornment - as a work of art.


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